Whether you’re a large global corporation or a small independent, you are trying to figure out how COVID-19 will impact your business in the weeks ahead. Now, more than ever, your marketing, PR, communications, and crisis management teams are working around the clock to ensure your staff and customers are taken care of during this global pandemic.
Amidst the uncertainty, companies are re-thinking their marketing efforts and investments—putting campaigns on hold until things settle down—and squandering the opportunity to get ahead of the curve once they do.
Keep Your Marketing Alive as You Navigate the Short Term
While focusing on a marketing campaign may not be top of mind, communicating relevant information with customers, prospects, partners, and employees is a priority. Companies large and small are walking a fine line between capitalizing on the current global health crisis and helping people adapt with products and services that meet the needs of today’s isolated, ever-changing workforce.
We learned from the 1980s recession that companies who advertised aggressively during the downturn saw nearly 300% sales growth in the following three years. Instead, look ahead—because there will be a rebound—and position yourself to have your message heard loud and clear when that day comes.
Frankenberger and Graham, two Oregon professors, studied 2,662 firms over 16,000+ “firm years” (1970–1991) to determine the effect of advertising on a company during a recession. Firms that advertised during a recession increased in value and got more marketing bang for their buck, in some cases for up to three years after the recession had ended.
COVID-19 is a global human health crisis. Nothing good will come from the idea of profiting from it. If you have a solution that helps people through this time, choose your words wisely—or you will come across as trying to make a quick buck. Knowing who you help—and how you help them—becomes more critical than ever.
Buyer Needs Have Changed
Business is not as usual right now, even as part of the country start reopening. In fact, over the past two months, your inbox has likely been flooded with advice for working from home, dealing with distractions, easing stress, the importance of routines, and how to manage your business during times of crisis (to name a few). Companies that provide communication, automation, and cloud-based “access from anywhere” solutions are capturing the attention of buyers researching products and solutions—because they now have time. They’re taking calls, booking meetings. and doing business.
Solutions that connect machines, work pieces, and systems can gain self-awareness and self-predictiveness. In addition to providing business-critical triggers and alerts of defects, production failures, and other system faults, these connected systems also identify the best possible time to resolve issues with near-zero downtime, often remotely. As businesses recover, automation and redundancy solutions will help drive growth, customer retention and bottom-line results.
They also require human intervention from time to time. For example, if you use a marketing automation platform, you have automated emails going out to people based on actions they took months ago. This holds true for any scheduled activities—from social media to monthly statements. If it was produced before March 15, re-visit your message and your imagery before it winds up back in the queue.
A New Normal Has Set in
Some industries embraced remote-working in the 90s, while others—steeped in a rich history of “how it’s always been done”—are virtual newbies. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of people who work from home had increased by 140% since 2005, according to “The Ultimate List of Remote Work Statistics—2020 Edition.” In the U.S., 4.3 million people work from home at least half the time. Half-time telecommuters save 11 days a year by not traveling to work.
Sales personnel, cut off from traditional face-to-face relationship-building tactics, are cleaning up their CRM contacts, polishing their LinkedIn profiles, engaging with prospects and influencers—and offering help. Marketing teams have cleaned up a backlog of unwritten case studies, blogs, and whitepapers. And they’re finally getting a chance to analyze, test, and revel in a playground of data.
The data gathered helps build new buyer profiles that go beyond the company information, purchase history and contact information stored in your database. It becomes the single source of truth for how needs have changed, what current challenges your contacts may be facing, and new ways you can help them—with print services and solutions that reinforce why they should keep doing business with you.
While marketing and sales collaborate on aligning the lead qualification and follow-up strategy throughout the buyer lifecycle, they’re ensuring a fluid customer experience—as your prospect/lead converts from being marketing qualified (MQL) to sales qualified (SQL) and your calls go from cold
Direct Mail Has a New Role
The customer communications industry has been laser-focused on data and data mining before many printers implemented a CRM. Not only do they speak the language(s), literally, but they are also well-versed in matters such as compliancy, security, data management, archiving and quality control.
From highly regulated statements, bills invoices, and critical mass mailings—to highly personalized and customized direct mail—integrating direct mail with digital campaigns boost attention spans. People spend 39% more time engaging in direct mail vs. digital campaigns alone, impacting brand experience, recall and results. Print has the power to keep customers informed and engaged. Adding textures and finishes like embossing, debossing, raised ink, foil or glitter teases them to do more than see print, but to touch it—and remember it.
Designers are looking for ways to transform their digital vision into a long-lasting and memorable physical one. Marketers are mining data to provide a hyper-personal customer experience. Print and marketing services providers are helping every one of these buyers get what they want by exposing the power of direct mail.
Sharing Is the New Selling
What you’re selling is not nearly as important as why it matters to the people who buy from you—especially now. How will your digital enhancement press impact the life of your customer in a post COVID-19 world? Your customers don’t want to know the speeds and feeds of your equipment, and they probably aren’t looking to “buy now.” Not only could asking too soon cause them to walk away, but in today’s world, it may be considered in poor taste. They may, however, be inclined to book a demo, fill out a customer satisfaction survey, or schedule a consultation.
Ninety percent of top-performing B2B content marketers put the audience’s informational needs first, according to the most recent B2B content marketing benchmark study from MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute. Sharing customer success stories, how-to guides, industry research and virtual tours—as well as being available, helpful and real—is the approach companies must now take.
Understanding the behaviors of your current (and future) buying audience—and feeding them resources that help them make independent decisions about new solutions, trends and technologies—is the new normal.
Listen More. Talk Less.
This is a time to act with empathy and kindness. As businesses struggle to tightly manage cash flow, think about what you can do to support your community, your industry and your employees. Care and consideration of the people you work with will be remembered long after the dust of this crisis settles.
By the time you read this it will be May. The sun will be shining, the weather will be warmer, and it is my sincere hope that we will have flattened the curve—and are primed for business—whether it’s the old normal, the new normal or somewhere in between.